While the Connecticut women’s basketball team didn’t win this year’s NCAA Tournament, or the last, their continued regular season dominance keeps bringing up sportswriter Dave Caldwell’s column from two years ago that asked, “Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?” Caldwell wrote that article just before the Huskies won their fourth NCAA title in as many years, and people keep bringing it back, despite South Carolina breaking their streak last season.
So the easy answer to this question is no, UConn isn’t in any way bad for women’s basketball. The Guardian recently published another article saying just that. UConn basketball is both fun and awe-inspiring to watch, and good basketball is good for basketball.
In the NBA, where there are only 30 teams, the consistent supremacy of only two teams can get a little boring, especially when you aren’t a Cavaliers or Warriors fan. But in the NCAA, where there are far more member institutions, the very structure of March Madness makes college basketball a lot more exciting.
In college football, there’s a similar tale of supremacy, with Alabama taking five of the past 10 National Championships. (Or four of the last 10, depending on how you feel about UCF.) But I haven’t heard anyone saying that Alabama’s success is bad for college football, and that’s probably because it’s not.
But every year in March, people who have spent the rest of the winter season not watching women’s basketball decide that everyone must hear their opinions about women’s basketball. Those opinions are usually that women’s basketball is boring because the same team always wins. (I’m not sure if most of these people know that South Carolina won last year. Like I said, they don’t actually pay all that much attention to women’s basketball except to disparage it.)
ESPN writer Mina Kimes tweeted screenshots of an interaction she had on Twitter with one of these “internet commentators” who don’t watch women’s basketball, who claimed the sport was boring because of UConn and didn’t seem to be aware that UConn lost to Notre Dame in the Final Four and didn’t play in the championship game.
GOT EMMM 😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/W1lAZHAilX— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 31, 2018
Quite a few of the (currently) 113 responses to Kimes’ original tweet make the exact same point that she’s criticizing, that they don’t watch women’s basketball because UConn has made it boring.
And, OK, when a No. 1 seed beating another No. 1 seed (like Notre Dame over UConn on Friday) counts as an upset, that says something about how dominant UConn has become. But that in no way means UConn is making the game boring. The only thing that’s really bad for women’s basketball is the people who are putting this narrative out on Twitter or publishing it as a column in The Guardian in the first place.
These people place a standard on women’s basketball; a standard they don’t place on the NBA, or college football. Women’s sports are often subject to standards that men’s sports are not, by people who don’t even bother to watch them. Women’s basketball doesn’t get the privilege of media coverage, or advertising. While the tournament gets the same label of March Madness, it doesn’t get the same hype.
That’s not just because one school happens to be really good at women’s basketball, and yet the blame is pinned on UConn.
The continued supremacy of a few teams, led by UConn, definitely contributes to the same group of teams consistently making the top levels of the tournament, but I don’t agree that it makes NCAA women’s basketball boring to watch. The people contributing to this narrative, especially the ones with a large platform like Caldwell has, are really what hurts women’s basketball.
Reach Managing Editor Hailey Robinson at email@example.com. Twitter: @haileyarobin